Hiring signs can be seen all around the greater Bangor area. Tradewinds on State Street in Veazie has a sign up along the road. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

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The Mills administration and Maine Democrats have been claiming success in navigating Maine’s economy through the pandemic since Gov. Janet Mills first declared a state of emergency in March 2020. The Maine Department of Labor’s (DOL) recent release showing March’s 3.6 percent unemployment rate would have people believe things are getting rosier. Yet a closer look at Maine DOL’s figures over the past three years tells a much different story.

In March 2019, a full year before COVID-19 was unnecessarily used to essentially shut down Maine’s economy, Maine’s labor force numbered about 699,326 workers. Out of those, 680,236 were employed and the unemployment rate was 2.7 percent, below the U.S. average of 3.8 percent.

However, Maine’s labor force was already showing signs of distress a year after Mills was sworn in and before the shutdown in March 2020. The state lost 3,400 jobs from December 2019 through February 2020 despite holding steady in the same period a year prior.

Yet the shutdown is where it really went south. When many employers were finally able to reopen, the economy has slowly recovered since. Unfortunately, the jobs and workers to fill them haven’t.

According to the latest data, 654,646 Mainers were employed in March 2022 and Indeed.com shows there are over 21,000 jobs available across Maine. The problem is the denominator has also dropped – those available to work stood at 679,433 in March, down by almost 20,000 from three years ago.

The obvious question for Gov. Mills is where did all the workers go?

Sen. Stacey Guerin